EDSA’s Emergency Bay

I was travelling southbound along EDSA in my vehicle when I found myself caught in a major traffic jam. In no time, I had reason to suspect that my engine could be overheating. For around thirty minutes, as I slowly inched my way through the jam, I finally pulled into one of the Emergency Bays. I had been seeing these bays for years, but I never thought I would need to use them. I always thought of them being such a novel use of idle space underneath the structures of flyovers.

Good thing it was a false alarm. What DID alarm me, though, was a street urchin suddenly approach me from nowhere, asking what I needed. He didn’t look too friendly, and despite my easy going, open-minded, friendly nature, I was glad to be out of there.

Those Emergency Bays along EDSA are products of innovative minds, always thinking of ways to improve current conditions and recognizing opportunities where none usually can be seen.

MMDA’s New Pink Line

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has just painted the sidewalks of some of Metro Manila’s thoroughfares with pink lines.

These pink lines are supposed to act as a demarcation to establish pedestrians’ rightful walking space.

According to the information leaflets they have been distributing, the MMDA will dismantle any structure and even tow any vehicle encroaching within the pedestrian zone.

With the commuting public increasing in the light of higher fuel prices, it makes sense to keep those who choose to walk safe from harm and obstruction. It not only encourages energy savings, but also makes for good exercise.

I am still wondering why some streets have not been painted these pink lines, yet they are adjacent to ones that have been painted. A case of a thoroughfare being a national road vs. a city road? Cooperation of city mayors? Beats me.

Whatever the case may be, this program of the MMDA, coupled with the ban on the annoying “horn tooting” habit of public transport drivers to solicit passengers, make for a more pleasant walk around the metropolis.

Oh, and in a few years, those seedlings planted by the MMDA along the sidewalks will eventually become mighty trees.

Bravo, I say.

Fuel for Cooking

Cow Dung Fuel

Cow Dung Fuel

In India, one of the alternate fuel sources used for cooking is simple dried cow dung. With the abundance of cows in India, there should be no problem finding enough cow dung to dry. This photo, taken during one of my trips to India, particularly in the Vrindavan/Mathura area, where Lord Krishna was born, shows a pile of cow dung being dried just outside a typical middle class home. Apparently, this practice enjoys widespread adoption not only in lower income households.

As for spiritual uses, dried cow dung is also used by Hindus to purge their homes of “unclean” things, used for example, to clean homes and cooking implements. The Vaishnavas believe in the purifying properties of cow dung, tracing them back to ancient vedic texts.

In the Philippines, I have not come across households using cow dung as fuel for cooking yet, but I am pretty sure that if this practice is taught here, it would lead to more cost savings for our countrymen. Another practice we can borrow from our Indian brothers to help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.

In fact, there are other practices, albeit more complicated to implement, that are also less dependent on fossil fuels that we can use. One of them is the use of “Ipa” or rice husks as fuel. In fact, most by-products of farming may be used as cooking fuel. I was told, however, that since Ipa is commonly discarded, this is the best use for them. Better than charcoal, I would think, since no trees need to be cut to make fuel. Raw, dried tree trimmings can be used as fuel, though.

Another option is to use a bio-digester that harvests methane gas from decomposing matter. The best and most common source is farm animal dung, although you will require the discharges from at least 10 hogs to be able to meet a typical family’s cooking needs. Since I do not exactly agree with commercial farming, I still prefer the Ipa, tree trimmings or Cow Dung options. Cows may be kept for land cultivation, for milk, or even as a pet.

Interestingly though, potent multivitamins can be extraced from Ipa and burning tree trimmings cause some air pollution.

For the environmentally conscious, funny as it may seem, cow dung may be your best choice as cooking fuel.

A Time-Saving Parking System

At the Sunway Mall, in Subang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I observed a unique parking system that definitely saves time for motorists and simplifies the ardorous task of scouring for an available parking slot.

Notice the red beacon lights which are easily noticeable from the driveway. These are meant to tell you, at a glance, if a parking slot is available in the whole parking row stretch. A green beacon light means the slot is vacant. No need to drive down the row to check for an available slot.

This sensor, at the upper left hand corner of the photo above, takes on the task of identifying slot availability.

Wouldn’t this be something neat to have in any parking lot?

Observations of Telco Service Offerings in India and Malaysia

I recently arrived from a trip of various Asian countries, and in two of the countries where I spend the most time for work, I took for myself local pre-paid SIM cards. Answering calls and responding to SMS messages through my Philippine-issued roaming postpaid SIM card just didn’t seem like a financially intelligent proposition. I would be paying for something like P15 (US$0.35) to respond to an SMS and P80/min. (US$1.90) to answer or make a call.

Using my acquired Malaysia SIM, the rates I pay look something like this:

  • Local SMS: RM0.01 (P0.13/US$0.003)
  • Local Call: RM 0.15/min (P1.98/US$0.046)
  • International SMS (to Phils.): RM 0.15 (P1.98/US$0.046)
  • International Call (to Phils.): RM 0.56/min (P7.30/US$0.17)

In India, the rates look something like this:

  • Local SMS: INR 0.50 (P0.50/US$0.01)
  • Local Call: INR 1.00/min. (P1.00/US$0.02)
  • International SMS (to Phils.): INR 3.00 (P3.00/US$0.07)
  • International Call (to Phils.): INR 12.00 (P12.00/US$0.28 )

These are the actual rates deducted from my balance when I availed of these services. I did not even choose the telco with the best rates, but the one with the best coverage. I have seen better rates offered by other competing telcos.

I did not pay more than P100 (US$2.35) for each of the actual SIM cards, and by the way, checking of balance is always free of charge. In fact, for my Malaysia SIM, I am able to view an e-statement of all my activities online, also for free.

With the equivalent of P300 (US$7.00) in both countries, my credits lasted for a whole week of use, making both local and international calls to the Philippines and Singapore. I must have even used my mobile phone more than I would usually have if I had been back home. The low rates seem to egg you on to use your phone more. It is no wonder why more people are on their mobiles in these countries than in the Philippines. With these rates, you would rather call than SMS. From a health and safety perspective, calling rather than texting probably causes less accidents on the road.

Globalization has indeed made the world a much smaller place. At least for some countries.

Alas, you cannot help but compare our local rates and offerings in the Philippines.

Visit my other blog HERE

 

New Data Pricing from Globe

I just came across this information today.

You can now surf the internet on your phone with either a Globe prepaid or postpaid line and be charged only P5 for 15 minutes.

To register to P5 for 15min – SMS Time to 1111. One time registration only. All your future browsing sessions will be charged P5 for 15min irregardless of the number of sites you visit. The problem is, at any time during your 15 minutes and your connection is dropped for whatever reason, you will again be charged P5 upon reconnection.

At minimum, you need a GPRS/EDGE capable phone. For the best experience, it is recommended that you have a 3G/HSDPA phone.

For more info, text Info to 1111.

To retrieve the correct data settings for your device/phone, text Internet (for postpaid) or INET (for Prepaid) to 2951.

With Smart’s rates set at P10 for every 30mins of surfing, Globe’s rates are now at par. Now that the playing field is level, at least in terms of price, let us see who among the two major telcos’ data coverage stands out.

Subic-Clark Expressway

On Good Friday, we tried the new Subic Clark Expressway (SCTEx) from Subic Bay. We had to get to Bustos, Bulacan to help our grandmother set our Spanish-era float on its way to participate in the annual Holy Week procession.

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The trip, from the Tipo toll plaza to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), was just under 30 minutes. You hardly notice that you have already travelled the span of the expressway, which is around 50+kms.

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I have to agree with my friends that the road looked like it was properly designed and constructed. The ride was smooth to the extent of almost being monotonous and hypnotic.

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And the view was just magnificent: rice paddies, lahar dunes, mountains, hills, ‘bahay kubo’, orchards– the Philippine countryside. I didn’t realize there was so much land and activity between Subic and Clark.

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All along the stretch, you could see evidence of proper planning. There were sections of the road that seemed to be allocated for emergency stops and filling stations. The shoulders were wide enough to accommodate a stalled vehicle. I also noticed that the exits were placed at a fair distance from the main expressway accessible via off-ramps.

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It was evident that the highway intended to simply ‘cut through’ to Clark through the shortest possible route, with all the hills it just sliced its way into.

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Ah, it was indeed a beautiful day.

The trip was smooth and quick. It took an hour to travel from my home in Subic to the Candaba viaduct, inclusive of a brief pit stop. If I had proceeded to Manila, the trip would have lasted no more than 1.5 hours.

Although I reckon that by using the SCTEx to Manila, I would be travelling around 40kms more than the old route, I would be saving at least 30 minutes of travel time. On a bad day, make that at least an hour. I, for one, wouldn’t mind paying for the extra 40kms worth of fuel and the toll fees, in exchange for a quicker and safer trip, free from the hassles of wrestling with tricycles and buses and negotiating mountainous bends.

I can’t wait for its grand opening in April.

And the culmination of our trip, a centuries-old family vow kept:

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For more details on the SCTEx, see an article I wrote previously HERE.